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Ranomi Does a Double Dutch

Aug 4, 2012  - Karin Helmstaedt

Olympic Games, London, Day 8 finals:

Women's 50m freestyle

On the last night of competition at the London Aquatics centre there was no catching Ranomi Kromowidjojo.

Just three weeks out from her 22nd birthday - the Dutch sprint phenom already had the 100 freestyle gold in her pocket - and as the fastest and most consistent woman this year over both distances - her last task at these Games was to bring home the double.

Swimming next to teammate Marleen Veldhuis - the two sped down the pool like Flying Dutchwomen - Kromowidjojo touching in Olympic record time - 24.05. Veldhuis was touched out for the silver by Aliaksandra Herasimenia in 24.28, the Belarus sprinter who once served a two-year suspension for doping, in 24.28 - and it was a Dutch medal duet with Veldhuis securing the bronze in 24.39.

Under rules that may yet be brought in, the likes of Herasimenia would not be allowed back into the Olympic arena. As it is, she was there, her effort helping to lock out defending champion Britta Steffen (GER), on 24.46, Britain's Fran Halsall on 24.47 and 34 year-old world champion Therese Alshammar, the Swedish sprinter who has been treated for a trapped nerve all week long, doing well to finish 6th in 24.61. It was her fifth Olympics.

Steffen's last stand was also Germany's: if the men's medley relay produces no medal, the former swimming powerhouse will leave London nursing its worst Olympic swimming performance since 1932, not a single medal in the mix - and not that many places in finals either.

Kromowidjojo, born and raised in the Netherlands but of Surinamese and Indonesian extraction, joins an illustrious line of Dutch sprinters, including the woman she looked up to, Olympic champion Inge de Bruijn, who won the sprint double and the 100 butterfly at Sydney, setting world records in all three.

"It's a great feeling to be the next Dutch Olympic champion," Kromowidjojo said, clutching her gold medal. 

But the journey to glory has not been a smooth one, as two years ago she contracted viral meningitis during a training camp, just two weeks before the 2010 European Championships. But she said the setback had made her stronger than ever before.

"Three or four months after the illness I felt better than ever. There was a moment I realised I could swim faster," she said, although adding that the period was not without moments of doubt.

"Two years ago, I didn't think I'd be here, with two golds and a silver. I'm really happy I'm healthy, and I'm strong."

Kromowidjojo trains with Jacco Verhaeren, well known for guiding Dutch swimmers to gold. He coached Pieter van den Hoogenband and de Bruijn to 15 Olympic medals between them.

Verhaeren said he spent a year in fine-tuning Kromowidjojo's technique after working on endurance and volume.

"Dutch women are made for sprinting, if you look at their bodies," he said. "But Ranomi's an exception. She's something special, a unique swimmer."

London 2012:

  • 1.Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) 24.05
  • 2.Aliaaksandra Herasimenia (RUS) 24.28
  • 3.Marleen Veldhuis (NED) 24.39

Fastest field: 24.05 - 24.69

Beijing 2008:

  • 1. Britta Steffen (GER) 24.06
  • 2. Darra Torres (USA) 24.07
  • 3. Cate Campbell (AUS) 24.17

Comparison fields:

  • London 2012: 24.05 - 24.69
  • Beijing 2008: 24.02 - 24.77
  • Athens 2004: 24.58 - 25.20 

What it took to make the final:

  • London: 24.92
  • Beijing: 24.72
  • Athens: 25.17